A forum hosted by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has discussed the implementation of recent legislation recognising multiculturalism in Queensland, and its significance among local and regional communities. The forum entitled ‘Appreciating and Implementing The Queensland Multicultural Recognition Act’ brought together local experts, politicians and heads of community to deliberate on the Act and its implications.
Indigenous Elder Uncle Darby McCarthy opened the event with a ‘Welcome to Country’, followed by an address from USQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas. “I’m very proud of the role this university has played in multiculturalism…which is one of the great strengths of this nation,” Professor Thomas said.
According to census data, Queensland’s population consists of people originating from more than 220 countries, 220 languages, and 100 different religious beliefs. Toowoomba Regional Council mayor Paul Antonio addressed the diversity of his region at the forum, describing the variety of cultures which comprise Toowoomba. “Our Toowoomba region is a rich tapestry of many different cultures. This legislation is important for the region and for the future of the state,” Cr Antonio said.
The Act has previously been criticised for being shallow in that it has no legally binding powers for enforcing action, nor are there consequences for failing to comply with the legislation. In February, MP Glen Elmes debated the Act in Parliament. “My problem is it says nothing of substance, it enforces nothing, and it doesn’t promote much. It does nothing to make the lives of migrants and refugees in Queensland any better,” Mr Elmes said.
Gitie House, president of the Toowoomba International Multicultural Society, pointed towards the symbolic importance of the Act as a reflection of Queenslanders’ beliefs in a multicultural society. “The Act is about formalising what people believe in their hearts, and giving newcomers self-confidence and assurance that we have established rules for fairness when it comes to multiculturalism,” she said.
Words by Zac Burns
Image supplied by the University of Southern Queensland